The main rule is that if the pickleball hits something permanent before bouncing, it is usually a fault. Players should know the rules for what happens when the ball hits objects so they can continue playing properly.
Pickleball is a fun sport that is played with paddles and a pickleball on a court. The pickleball goes back and forth over a net between the players or teams.
Sometimes during a pickleball game, the ball might hit something on the court that is not one of the players’ paddles. This is called the ball “striking an object.” There are rules for what happens when the pickleball strikes different objects. Knowing these rules is important so players can react properly and continue the game.
Here are the main rules for what happens when the pickleball strikes various objects during play:
- What happens if the pickleball hits a permanent object before bouncing?
- What happens if the ball hits a permanent object after bouncing?
- What if the pickleball hits a non-permanent object during play?
- What happens if the ball goes over the net then hits the horizontal bar or center base?
- What if the pickleball gets stuck between the net and post?
- What if the ball hits a player's clothing?
- What if the ball hits a referee?
- Summary of Main "Ball Striking Object" Rules
What happens if the pickleball hits a permanent object before bouncing?
- Permanent objects include things like benches, fences, poles, or the referee.
- If the pickleball hits a permanent object before bouncing on the court, it is a fault.
- The player who hit the ball that struck the permanent object loses the point.
So the main rule is that hitting a permanent object before the ball bounces is an automatic fault.
This is because permanent objects are not considered part of normal pickleball play, so hitting them is penalized as a fault.
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What happens if the ball hits a permanent object after bouncing?
- If the ball bounces on the court first and then hits a permanent object, it is still in play.
- The point continues normally.
- Players do not call a fault or replay the serve if the ball bounces first.
So there is no fault if the pickleball hits a permanent object after bouncing on the court.
What if the pickleball hits a non-permanent object during play?
Non-permanent objects are things that should not be on the court but sometimes end up there, like:
- Water bottles
Here are the rules if the pickleball hits these types of objects:
- If the ball hits a non-permanent object before bouncing, it is a fault.
- The player who hit the ball into the object loses the point the same as with permanent objects.
- However, if the ball hits a non-permanent object after bouncing, play continues normally.
- There is one exception: If a volley (hit before bounce) causes any item to land in the non-volley zone, it is a fault.
So the key rules are:
- Hitting any object before the bounce = fault
- Hitting a non-permanent object after bounce = still in play
- But volley causing object in non-volley zone = fault
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What happens if the ball goes over the net then hits the horizontal bar or center base?
The net that divides the court has a horizontal bar at the top and a center base in the middle.
If the pickleball goes over the net and then hits either the horizontal bar or center base, here is what happens:
- If the ball hits the bar or base before or after bouncing, it is called a “let.”
- The serve is replayed with no penalty.
- Neither player scores a point.
So hitting the net’s horizontal bar or center base results in replaying the serve as a “let.”
This avoids arguments about whether the ball would have gone over the net or not. The serve is simply replayed.
What if the pickleball gets stuck between the net and post?
Pickleballs can sometimes get stuck between the net and the pole holding up the net.
If this happens:
- The ball is considered lodged and is declared a “let.”
- The serve is replayed with no points scored.
So the pickleball getting stuck results in the same thing as hitting the horizontal bar – a “let” is called and the serve is replayed.
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What if the ball hits a player’s clothing?
Sometimes the moving pickleball will strike a player’s clothing, like their shirt or hat.
If this happens:
- There is no fault called if the ball hits a player’s clothing.
- The point continues normally.
Hitting a player’s clothing does not stop play or result in a fault.
This includes clothing that falls off onto the court during play. The clothing is considered part of the player in this case.
What if the ball hits a referee?
Referees oversee pickleball matches to enforce the rules. Sometimes a moving ball will strike the referee during play.
If the pickleball hits the referee:
- It is treated the same as hitting any other permanent object.
- If the ball strikes the referee before a bounce, it is a fault.
- If after the bounce, play continues.
So the referee is considered a permanent object, and the same rules apply if the ball hits them.
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Summary of Main “Ball Striking Object” Rules
Here is a quick summary of the key rules covered above:
- Hitting permanent objects before bounce = fault
- Hitting permanent objects after bounce = play continues
- Hitting non-permanent objects before bounce = fault
- Non-permanent objects after bounce = play continues
- Volley causing object in non-volley zone = fault
- Hitting horizontal bar or center base = “let,” replay serve
- Ball stuck in net = “let,” replay serve
- Hitting player clothing = play continues
- Hitting referee before bounce = fault
- Hitting referee after bounce = play continues
Knowing the rules for different “ball striking object” situations will help pickleball players react properly during games. Share these rules with teammates and refer to them yourself when strange object hits occur!
The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) governs official pickleball rules. Players should read the IFP rulebook for more examples and details. But this covers the major scenarios for “ball striking an object.”
Understanding these rules will help your pickleball games run smoothly when the ball hits something besides a paddle! Use this knowledge to keep playing properly after unusual object strikes.